Dennis Eckersley: ‘Not Many Good Teams In MLB’

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Dennis Eckersley (Credit: Otto Greule/Allsport)

Dennis Eckersley (Credit: Otto Greule/Allsport)

It’s hard to believe, but more than one decade has passed since Major League Baseball decided that the All-Star Game would decide home-field advantage in the World Series.

And, more than one decade later, many people are still clamoring for that rule to be abolished.

“I’m not necessarily surprised (that MLB chose to do something like this), but I don’t know why they picked (this) game to have some meaning going toward the World Series,” Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley told John Kincade, who was filling in as co-host of The John Feinstein Show. “When I was going to All-Star games, it was about which league is better – as if one game could decide whether one league was better. But at the time, I think the National League had won like 10 in a row, so there really was a lot of pride involved in the game. But they came up with (this new rule).”

Since the rule change, eight of the 11 teams with home-field advantage have gone on to win the World Series.

“I don’t know if they can try something different next year or in the years following,” said Eckersley, a six-time All-Star, “but this is the way it is.”

Indeed, the All-Star Game as home-field decider will be one of commissioner Bud Selig’s enduring legacies. So will the parity he created in MLB – even if he took it a couple of steps too far.

“Almost a sickening parity. Mediocrity, isn’t it?” Eckersley asked. “To me, there’s just not that many good teams. I guess that creates parity, but I don’t think that’s what they were after. I think you want to have a lot of good clubs. But at the same time, that extra wild card has made everybody think they have a chance to get in it.”

Aside from the six division leaders, there are a combined 15 teams within seven games of a Wild Card spot, including 10 within three games.

“I like parity,” Eckersley said, “but at the same time, I’d like to see a stud team, too.”

Eckersley, a two-time saves champion and a member of the MLB’s All-Time Team, was also asked about the specialization of pitchers. In 1992, Eckersley saved 51 games and was named the AL Cy Young winner and the AL MVP. Can you imagine a reliever getting either of those awards today?

In a word, no.

In two words, hell no.

“The game has changed,” Eckersley said. “That’s the way it is. It’s a six-inning game – maybe less sometimes. There’s just dominance in the bullpen. The save is overrated now. Guys get 40 saves just to stay in shape. That’s just an average year. The days of pitching three innings (per appearance) are over. You see the dominance. You’ve got three guys that can close games out. Do I like it? I (can see) both sides. I’m old school. I wouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame if I didn’t (save all those games) with the A’s all those years.”

There are also those who argue that a team’s best reliever shouldn’t be automatically saved – no pun intended – for the ninth inning. Rather, he should be used in the situation of highest leverage, regardless of when it occurs.

“I don’t see it happening,” Eckersley said. “I really don’t. You’re always going to save your guy for the end. Sometimes the (most important) out is in the sixth inning, but it’s just not going to happen. Everybody in the bullpen would be upside down. There’s something to be said for (always knowing when you’re going to pitch). Everybody follows suit. There’s a lot behind that. But I understand. Important outs come earlier in the game. But it’s not going to change.”


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